The sound of “pneumonia” alone is enough to send a chilling thunder down our spine, but when we hear of walking pneumonia our conscious stops for a second and wonders what in the bees world is this illness that sounds nothing less than an apocalyptic disease. Is it something that the zombies carry “Walking” Pneumonia?
I can’t stop fancying getting this disease while strolling down my street and meeting a zombie in the end. But, to my dismay, walking pneumonia isn’t as horrible as I imagined it to be, and worst of all, it has nothing to do with zombies. DAMN IT.
Just to kill away your curiosity, in a similar way mine was obliterated, I’ll tell you everything about walking pneumonia and the running symptoms of walking pneumonia. I can assure you that it won’t end up being as scary as you think it is, so stop being too excited.
Expert folks at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between 1 to 10 cases from every 50 cases of community-acquired pneumonia in our motherland, the great US of A, are attributed to the microscopic little pathogen causing walking pneumonia. Mycoplasma pneumoniae is the culprit folks! It’s the bacterium which is attributed to causing walking pneumonia. Yes, it’s not a zombie like I told y’all before.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae is an atypical bacterium, suggesting that it is not one of the typical pathogens which causes pneumonia meaning that it’s not the ordinary bacteria that you meet and great every day. It’s special. The bacterial pathogen is famous among its peers and other species for causing respiratory system infections in humans -weak animals. The most commonly attributed infection to M. pneumoniae is chest cold. Chest cold is better known as tracheobronchitis which is found in children with symptoms similar to that of upper respiratory tract problems such as sore throat. And all of you pretentious folks who thought that your chest cold had something to do with your dark cold heart, then dudes you are all collectively wrong. Stop being so awesome and get yourself checked by the physician.
When this bacterium causes pneumonia, it is not severe and normally doesn’t require hospitalization. However, sometimes the pneumonia caused by this pathogen requires treatment and even hospitalization, if aggravated.
But, the good news is that often M. pneumoniae doesn’t cause a lot of trouble, at many times people contract the bacteria but don’t show any symptoms of disease. A general trend in the illness caused by M. pneumoniae show that walking pneumonia is a mild condition which is more commonly present in people who spend many hours of their day in crowded places. Fortunately for me, I am a prisoner living in solitary.
School going children, people in hospitals, nursing homes, hostels and military barracks are prone to catching the pathogen from contaminated droplets that an infected person sneezes or coughs out. (Reasons to stop being social)
How Is Walking Pneumonia Different From Pneumonia?
By now, we have learned that walking pneumonia is a form of pneumonia which is not severe. The symptoms of pneumonia are so mild that they often go unnoticed by the person who has it.
PNEUMONIA is a severe respiratory condition which can be caused by mycoplasma (genus of bacterial without a cell wall), bacteria, virus or fungi and all these forms of PNEUMONIA are contagious in nature. PNEUMONIA is also categorized in community acquired pneumonia (CAP) and hospital acquired PNEUMONIA (HAP), these are the PNEUMONIA cases which are contracted by being out in crowded places or by being in a hospital, respectively.
PNEUMONIA is characterized by swelling in lung tissues, which can be present in one or both lungs, which particularly cause air sac inflammation. Once a person becomes ill by catching PNEUMONIA, the capillaries in lungs begin to leak giving way to protein-rich fluid into the alveoli (tiny air sacs in lungs). Now that the alveoli become inflamed, they are filled with pus and cell debris.
In addition to this, the PNEUMONIA infection leads to increase mucus production in infected cells of the lungs, due to the presence of leaky blood vessels, the secreted mucus and blood mix. With alveolar inflammation and increased mucus production, the gaseous exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs become less efficient which leads towards oxygen deprivation in the infected person’s system. To counteract, this effect of pneumonia and resulting breathlessness, the heart rate is alleviated.
Now that, we are aware of the basic pathology and effects of PNEUMONIA on the respiratory system of a person, we can better understand walking pneumonia now.
As we begin to distinguish walking pneumonia with PNEUMONIA, we need to realize that walking pneumonia is a subcategory of pneumonia which is highly contagious in nature but not severe as pneumonia caused by other pathogens. As we will discuss the symptoms of walking pneumonia later in detail, here is a brief account of symptoms manifested in a typical class of pneumonia.
Experts stay that the symptoms and duration of pneumonia vary in accordance with the causative agent involved. However, generally the following symptoms are manifested if you suffer from pneumonia.
- Fever and chills
- Cough with or without sputum secretion
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty in breathing
- Nasal congestion
- Chest tightness
- Chest pain
- Wheezing or experiencing rattling sound while breathing
- Muscular pain
- Increased breathing rate
- Increased heart rate
- Body temperature dropping below 35oC
- Discomfort and fatigue
- Skin Rash or blue coloration of lips in viral pneumonia
- Profuse sweating or having a sweaty skin
- Mental disorientation or confusion particularly in older adults
Initially, you might think of having flu, when actually you are suffering from pneumonia. So, if it has been 7 to 10 days with flu-like symptoms which are becoming worse instead of improving, then you should get the hit straight and visit your doctor to learn about your pneumonia diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Walking Pneumonia
This might come as a surprise to you that more often than not walking pneumonia goes undiagnosed and untreated. As the symptoms experienced are so mild in nature, one can’t usually tell if they suffer from a condition which requires a visit to the doctor.
You can casually walk in and out of a walking pneumonia this easily. But, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore any symptoms as trivial and decide to not pay a visit to your doctor. That would just be wrong, you shouldn’t be doing it.
Once you begin to notice the symptoms of walking pneumonia, you have met with your doctor to be certain about the nature of your disease. It is quite possible that, your symptoms may deceive you into thinking that it is walking pneumonia, while in reality it is a severe form of pneumonia or some other condition, you weren’t considering initially.
As you visit your doctor, to give you an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will perform a physical examination on you and take your medical history. Don’t hide anything from them. I repeat. DO NOT
Initially, the doctor will examine your chest, breathing rate and observe you for the presence of congestion or wheezing with a stethoscope. Following this chest examination, if your doctor identifies a problem, he will take a chest X-ray which will further make a pneumonia diagnosis easier.
At other times, your doctor may run a culture test on the mucus sample taken from the nose or throat, that can further help confirm a diagnosis.
Particularly for diagnosing walking pneumonia and identifying a mycoplasma infection, a blood test may be carried out. In addition to this, another blood test helps in identifying the increased concentration of cold agglutinins which are autoantibodies secreted by the immune system, hinting at the presence of walking pneumonia pathogen in the blood. It is to mention, that cold agglutinin test is not a confirmatory test for walking pneumonia, but it is just a supplementary test which is suggestive of walking pneumonia. But these blood tests are not a frequent clinical practice for the diagnosis of individual cases of walking pneumonia. However, these blood tests are usually run when a community or group of people encounters a walking pneumonia outbreak.
Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia In Adults
The symptoms of walking pneumonia are not immediately manifested after you are exposed to the causative agent, but these symptoms begin to show 15 to 25 days after you have had the exposure.
After the onset of symptoms, these symptoms take up to four days to reach the peak. Here are the commonly manifested symptoms of walking pneumonia which you should be looking for, if you suspect yourself having it.
- Flu-like symptoms, runny or stuffy nose
- Violent coughing spasms
- Coughs accompanied by little mucus secretion
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Chills and low grade fever (101oF)
- Persisting state of weaken after other symptoms are already gone
- Lethargic or tiredness
- Chest pain making it hard to breath properly
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Less commonly, skin rash, ear infection, diarrhea or anemia is caused
Walking Pneumonia Symptoms In Children
In children, walking pneumonia can also be a result of a persistent cold or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). If either of these conditions last up to 10 days, then it is likely that the condition is turned into a case of walking pneumonia. The symptoms of walking pneumonia can be rapid or gradual, however, if the onset of symptoms is slow then these symptoms are likely to turn more severe. You should be looking for the following symptoms in your child if you suspect them catching walking pneumonia from their pals.
- Feeling tired or discomfort
- Loss of appetite in older kids
- Decreased feeding in infants
- Cough and chest pain
- Breathlessness or labored breathing
- Cold-like symptoms, sore throat and headache
- Low-grade fever
It is important to note that these symptoms may vary depending upon the infected area of the respiratory tract. If the infection is primarily present in the upper or middle region of lungs, then having difficulty in breathing is a salient feature of walking pneumonia in children. On the contrary, if the pathogen is residing in the lower area of the lungs, then vomiting, nausea or diarrhea may be experienced by your kid.
Who Gets Walking Pneumonia?
As we discussed earlier, walking pneumonia is common in people who are routinely exposed to crowded places. Similarly, children who are in their school-going age and adults, younger than 40 years of age, are generally most likely to suffer from walking pneumonia. However, this doesn’t mean that people belong to other age groups and social environment cannot get walking pneumonia.
It is also worth mentioning that to catch walking pneumonia, one generally needs to be exposed to the M. pneumoniae multiple times. Often, it is observed that the cases of pneumonia peak during late summer or fall seasons however you can contract walking pneumonia pathogen anytime during the year.
Recovery Time Of Walking Pneumonia
Once a person is infected with walking pneumonia, he/she takes a few days to develop symptoms. Due to this gradual symptom onset, people find it tough to trace back to the time where the infection was contracted and find a hint about their condition.
Experts believe that this gradual onset is due to the long incubation period of M. pneumonia that stretches between 1 to 4 weeks’ time however in most of the cases the symptom onset is observed 2 weeks after an individual’s exposure to the causative agent.
Once a person begins to take antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor, the mycoplasma growth in the respiratory tract is reduced and eventually inhibited. Following this, the symptoms begin to improve and the person becomes less contagious for people in the surroundings.
Treatment of Walking Pneumonia
Mycoplasma is a genus of bacteria, thereby antibiotics are considered as most effective treatment for walking pneumonia. Your doctor is likely to prescribe you relevant antibiotics to be eaten regularly for 7-10 days. When you have an antibiotic prescription, you have to be careful about the consumed dosage of medication, if you stop taking the medication half way through the recommended span, then you have a risk of developing antibiotic resistance in future.
Walking pneumonia is contagious; we already know this but the contagion factor of walking pneumonia is confined to a great extend once you begin taking antibiotics.While taking medication directly helps you by improving your health, it also ensures that you aren’t a threat to your family and friends.
However, in majority of people who catch walking pneumonia do not even require the treatment and they are back to being healthy without taking any medications. This happens because these people could barely notice if they have the infection or not.
While walking pneumonia goes away on its own, most of the times; this fact shouldn’t stop you from seeking doctor’s help because the infection you carry is contagious.
During this time, when you begin to feel slightest of symptoms and decide to ignore them as trivial, you have to be certain that you aren’t a carrier of an infection.
You might think of these mild symptoms as trivial which rightfully so can be handled by your immune system, but it is quite possible that you are across people whose immunity is vulnerable to walking pneumonia who contract the infection and get ill. The people with a weak immune system, particularly include older adults, cancer patients, HIV patients, pregnant women and children.
Thereby, it is important to get treated and be careful to not spread your walking pneumonia to other people.
As walking pneumonia is a type of community acquired pneumonia (CAP), here are recommendations of National institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) UK, for low to mild case of CAP.
NICE recommends that antibiotics should be prescribed right after a diagnosis of CAP is made.
- In patients with low-severity CAP, antibiotic therapy should be offered for 5-day long course.
- The patients who suffer from low-severity CAP should take amoxicillin instead of tetracycline or macrolide.
Tetracycline is an antibiotic that is often useful to treat bacterial infections which include the infections of urinary tract, acne, skin infections, and different respiratory tract infections including pneumonia.
However, it is worth-noting that NICE doesn’t recommend the use of tetracycline for low to mild cases of pneumonia.
On the contrary, macrolides are another class of antibiotics that inhibit bacterial protein synthesis that in turns inhibit bacterial growth. Macrolides are found to be effective against gram-positive cocci and other bacterial strains including chlamydia, mycoplasma and legionella.
Here is how, the treatment for walking pneumonia is different from other CAP strains. As walking pneumonia is caused from mycoplasma, the recommendations for CAP cannot fit properly to treat it.
While, amoxicillin which is a type of penicillin may be the most favored antibiotic treatment for pneumonia caused from other bacterial strains, it is not suitable to treat walking pneumonia that results from M. pneumoniae. Thereby, the following recommendations work better at understanding most effective treatment for walking pneumonia.
- The recommendations from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) favor the use of macrolides as the treatment of walking pneumonia. In addition to this, macrolides such as azithromycin is preferred antibiotic therapy both for adults and kids. CDC goes on to suggest that, fluoroquinolones can be also used by adults who suffer from walking pneumonia.
- Furthermore, it recommends the use of tetracyclines for adults and older children. But CDC also emphasizes on the fact that tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones should not be prescribed to children who suffer from the infection.
- The use of the recommended antibiotics should be extended from 5 days after consulting your doctor, is the symptoms do not improve after 3 days of antibiotics use.
- The use of corticosteroid is not advised until a simultaneous condition which improves from this class of medication is observed in the patient.
Antibiotic Resistance And Walking Pneumonia
Due to the structural composition of the strain, particularly due to the lack of a cell wall; mycoplasma pneumoniae is resistant to penicillin belong to the class of beta-lactam antibiotics. So, after your doctor is certain about the diagnosis of walking pneumonia, he is unlikely to prescribe you penicillin.
However, the menace of antibiotic resistance doesn’t end here but it extends to antibiotic resistance to medications which are the recommended treatment route for the condition. According to the CDC, the M. pneumoniae strains begin to exhibit resistance to macrolide in year 2000. The macrolide-resistant strains of walking pneumonia pose a challenge to health experts globally, as these strains have the ability to nullify the effect of medication that is in the fore-front of combating the infection.
This drug resistance had been identified in Europe and in the US, however, this resistance has reached alarming levels of about 90%, in some parts of Asia. According to Clinical Infectious Diseases from Oxford Journals, in China during the span of over a year, from 1st August 2008 to 30th September 2009, out of 356 adults who reported a respiratory tract infection in a clinical setting; 67 strain isolates were identified as M. pneumoniae. From these isolates, over 69% strains showed resistance to macrolide. Upon further sample analysis, it was found that the strains had point mutations present in the 23S ribosomal RNA gene.
According to another study from the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, macrolide resistance is also present in children who get infected with walking pneumonia. An outbreak was observed in Southern Italian where macrolide-resistant M. pneumoniae samples were identified which makes the use of macrolide less effective to improve the symptoms in children. Now, the gravity of macrolide resistance is more in children compared to that found in adults, the reason being that other choices of antibiotics are not recommended to be used by children.
People with walking pneumonia who contract macrolide-resistant mycoplasma are found to response poorly to macrolides. The symptoms which include cough and fever persist despite the use of these antibiotics. However, some evidence supports the effective use of antibiotics like fluoroquinolone or doxycycline, according to the findings of CDC.
Home Remedies For Treating Walking Pneumonia
For treating walking pneumonia some home remedies can come in handy for getting rid of the symptoms.
- There is no substitution to eating health, particularly when you have caught walking pneumonia. So, when you are ill with it, start eating foods that are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C.
Not only will these vitamins help in strengthening your immune system but they will also help in fortifying the inner linings of your lungs. This will ultimately help in pacing up your recovery and help prevent walking pneumonia recurrence.
WHO also advises that children who suffer from respiratory infections should be given vitamin D supplements in addition to vitamin D rich foods. These foods include eggs, oily fish and vitamin-D fortified foods. The vitamin D intake can also be increased by absorbing sunlight. Unsurprisingly, vitamin D also helps in immune system regulation that protects children from not only pneumonia but also from other respiratory infections including bronchiolitis and tuberculosis (TB) .
A study conducted by experts from the University of Eastern Finland which was also published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The study suggested that low vitamin D levels in serum increase the risk of pneumonia by 2.5 times, where the average age of study participants was 62.3 years and the baseline serum concentration was set at 43.5nmol/l.
- Had you been a fan of ginger in any form, whatsoever? If not, then it is time that ginger becomes your favorite as it comes to your rescue in this time of trouble. All you need to do is that, you have to take a ginger and extract its juice. Then you have to mix it with a tablespoon of honey. Once your sweet and sour syrup is ready, you have to consume it twice or thrice for a few days until your walking pneumonia goes away. This honey and ginger combo can do wonders as it stops the bacterial growth in your respiratory tract to help your ailment vanish in days.
- You should also consume food items that are rich in zinc. The need to consume sufficient amount of zinc in food can also be complemented by consuming zinc supplements after consulting your doctor.
- Chewing holy basil leaves can help with relieving flu and cough.
- Steam inhalation can help in relieving nasal blockage.
- Similarly, consumption of golden seal or flaxseed oil is also helpful in the fortification of immune system.
- Herbal teas are for you. You can add some drops of lemon juice in your herbal tea which will soothe your sore throat. As we talk of herbal teas, it will be unfair to not talk about herbal home remedies which can help you find relief.
- Do not forget to consume sufficient amounts of fluids to prevent dehydration.
How To Prevent Walking Pneumonia
Once you are infected with walking pneumonia, you should ensure that you are taking measures to not spread in to the people around you.
- For this purpose, you are supposed to cover your mouth and nose when you are coughing or sneezing so that the infected droplets do not spread through the air and infect people who are breathing in the same air.
- You should use a handkerchief or tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you feel the need to cough, sneeze or blow your nose. Your infected sputum should also be properly discarded.
- Discard the soiled tissues properly.
- Keep your hands clean from repeated washing and having a hand sanitizer handy.
- Maintain good hygiene of yourself and your surroundings.
- Keep your room ventilated so fresh air can replace contaminated air.
- Avoid being in crowded place until you begin your medication and observe symptom improvement